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Security service chiefs

Widespread violence could affect next year’s presidential election—US warns

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Two US pro-democracy groups, National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) said weekend that there are strong chances of widespread violence to truncate Nigeria’s presidential election next year.

Explaining more during a pre-election assessment, they averred that “Nigeria faces security challenges from a number of non-state actors that, if unchecked, could disrupt the electoral process”.

They argued that despite pledging to defeat Boko Haram, whose insurgency has left at least 20,000 dead in the last nine years, new trend of violence driven by Fulani herders wishing to dislodge landowner-farmers from their ancestral homes and farmlands may remain intractable till election period.

It would be recalled that as well as Boko Haram attacks, renewed violence in the long-running resources conflict between cattle herders and farmers in central states has killed 1,000 people this year.

The groups also hinted that trading in illegal weapons, the apparent inability of the security forces to stop the violence and the framing of it in political or religious terms were fuelling unrest.

They jointly stressed that “If not addressed, these security threats could erode confidence in government”.

Already, higher volume of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the northeast and central states could pose “specific challenges for the conduct of elections in the impacted areas”, they added.

Whereas it would be recalled that similar fears about violence and its potential effects on planning, holding and participating in an election in areas wracked by conflict were seen before the 2015 elections, the vote was pushed back six weeks to allow the military more time to secure areas controlled by Boko Haram, whose leader Abubakar Shekau had threatened to disrupt the election.

On the July 14 Ekiti poll, there was a new wave of electoral crime known as vote-buying by the two main parties and the NDI-IRI stressed that “Vote-buying is an electoral offence; it also undermines the legitimacy of elections and weakens representative democracy”.

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